Verdi at the Massimo, Palermo

The exhibition “Verdi at the Massimo” is part of the celebrations for Giuseppe Verdi’s bicentenary. It will be open to the public from March 22nd to September 29th 2013.

Verdi at the Massimo, PalermoUt pictura musica

In the era of technical reproducibility it might be thought that the memory of a performance can be entrusted to recording alone, visual and sound, overlooking the fact that such documentation, though important, would in any case be reductive in relation to the event represented and experienced by the public in the theatre or opera house.
Opera performance, which is the fruit of the sum of the technical-artistic potentialities of an opera house, must instead be documented, to respect its historical position, through the greatest possible number of elements. This is a way to arrive at a faithful reconstruction both of the effort made by the productive components and of the process of conception of the director, choreographer, stage designer and costume designer.
Sketches, figurines, models and properties are therefore essential to providing a better defined historical dimension of a musical performance, in order to penetrate the sensibilities of those artists that in the course of time have interpreted the intentions of the composer and librettist.
Moreover, in the course of time the scenic aspect has taken on a role equal or even superior to the musical one, the same one as it had at the beginning of melodrama with the scenic phantasmagorias of the Baroque age, with the new factor that the opera scene today is approached by contemporary directors and stage designers with aesthetics and expressive modalities that are very distant from the author of the original text.
In particular, the arrival of electric lighting gave an impulse to the renewal of theatrical technical scenes, previously illuminated by gas or candles, and substantially painted. Scenography, according to the Vitruvian canon, until then was to be considered the perspective place par excellence, a deceptive representation, exquisitely painterly, in which the idea of space was filtered by the image that painting technique was able to furnish. Besides, the theatre itself was considered as the negation of real space, an illusive space, built ad hoc, in which the rite of representation takes place. The proscenium, which inside it contains the representation, was reinvented and dilated, through painterly artifices, to give the spectators a space that each time changes, becomes larger, is transformed. Rejection of painterly pretence slowly penetrated into opera stagings, which gradually reduced the decorative elements to give emphasis – through the three-dimensionally constructed scene, in which volumes and lines have great importance – to technology and the most disparate materials.
v The exhibition “Verdi at the Massimo”, which follows the recent one to dedicated Wagner, allows one, through the popularity of this great composer, to observe this transformation close-up, comparing stagings of the same operas done at different times and therefore according to different tastes and aesthetic currents. The shrewd analysis by the person handling the exhibition, Sergio Troisi, this time too guides us through a critical reading of the sketches and figurines on display, knowledge of which is also enriched by the words and direct experience of Gioacchino Lanza Tomasi, one of the shrewdest and most refined musicologists and music critics of our time. The sensitive and affectionate testimony of Gaia Maschi Verdi, a descendent of Antonio Barezzi, who was the first supporter of the young composer from Busseto, further strengthens the bond between Verdi and the Teatro Massimo that was inaugurated in 1897 with his last masterpiece, Falstaff, and several times has chosen his works to celebrate particularly significant moments, not least of which its reopening in 1998 with Aida. The exhibition, prepared by Roberto Lo Sciuto and coordinated by Marida Cassarà, involves many sectors of the Teatro, including the properties workshops and the library, and it is significantly inserted in the big programme laid on by the Massimo to celebrate the bicentennial of the birth of Giuseppe Verdi: in it, some of the “classics” like Nabucco, Aida and Rigoletto are set side by side in the 2013 concerts and ballets on music by Verdi, performances for schools and guided visits for the youngest people animated by the presence of Filli Cusenza (a famous “fiber art artist”) and by collaboration with a new and important reality, the Young People’s Association for the Teatro Massimo, impassioned opera students that we hope can involve their contemporaries more and more in our activities.

Prefetto Fabio Carapezza Guttuso
Commissario straordinario del Teatro Massimo

Exhibition Opening

Friday, March 22 – 8pm
The External Commissioner, Prefect Fabio Carapezza Guttuso and Gaia Maschi Verdi, heir of Antonio Barezzi, the man who first supported young Verdi, will be present. The evening will continue with the Premiere performance of Nabucco, one of the most representative and well-known operas composed by Verdi in his first creative stage.

Opening Hours

Tuesday-Sunday from 9.30 am to 5 pm as a part of the guided tour, and during the evening performances for the opera and concert audience.
Tickets for the guided tour: euro 3 to 8, on sale at the Teatro Massimo Box-office (last tour starts at 4.20 pm).
Info and reservations for groups:
tel +39 091 605.32.67, fax +39 091 605.33.42

Exhibition Catalogue

The Catalogue (348 colour pages, 28 €) is available. It contains quality prints of the iconographic materials of the exhibition, together with commentaries from the External Commissioner, Prefect Fabio Carapezza Guttuso, Gaia Maschi Verdi, the curator Sergio Troisi and musicologist Gioacchino Lanza Tomasi. A chronology of Verdi operas performed at the Teatro Massimo is also included.

Verdi as (also) a visual artist

Verdi, who is (also) a visual artist, thus intercepts so much of nineteenth-century imagery –repertories and techniques of assemblage – making in this direction a decisive contribution to the sensibility of the age. Hayez and historic painting (Diotti, Mancinelli), Iberian and oriental exoticism – from Ernani to Aida – and the imaginative seduction of romantic literature, its clamours, offences, deceptions and revenges, Eros succumbing and fulfilled in the embrace of Thanatos sought, Byron, Hugo Dumas, but also Guiterrez and Werner and not least of all Shakespeare, filtered and restored by the falling in love of the century: Verdi’s is a hypertrophic nineteenth century, a circular one, which on every staging imposes its highly stratified memory, its labyrinthine course and the continual game of mirrors and sliding (for Foscari Byron, Hayez and Verdi, for instance; for Vespri Verdi, again Hayez and Michele Amari, the author, on that event, of a seminal work of historiography in those years), sowing the ground with traps and snares at the very moment when he prepares a raft of promptings and quotations of historical sources, including those represented by the sometimes dense stage directions by the author.

This succession of inevitable cross-references, understood or made explicit, can be taken as a key to understanding stagings by the Teatro Massimo in a significantly broad catalogue and time span, from the fifties to today, allowing us to identify the gradual evolutions of opera scenography and the change of step occurring between the seventies and eighties, when the generally adopted practice of historical reconstruction gave way to freer interpretations, first of all regarding directing (to put it banally: the question so often raised of the tastes of the public, that is to say whether or not to bring the opera up to date).
Yet, even in these examples prevailing in present-day theatrical practices, in Verdi stagings the tenacious nineteenth-century cultural ghosts are rarely eluded, and indeed continually appear like ghosts never fully laid.

Sergio Troisi
Exhibition Curator

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